Dune: Part Two is jaw-droppingly weird

Villeneuve and his co-writer, Jon Spaihts, just don’t give any of the characters enough interesting things to say or do, despite the 166-minute running time at their disposal. The heart of the film is, supposedly, the romance between Paul and Chani, but it’s so underdeveloped that it’s impossible to care whether or not they will live happily ever after. And who knows if they do live happily ever after, anyway? Dune: Part Two takes us to the end of Herbert’s first Dune novel, but numerous plot strands are left hanging, presumably in the hope that they’ll be tied up in Dune: Part Three.

You might expect a big-budget space opera to exhilarate you and move you, and on those terms Villeneuve’s sprawling, pretentious folly has to count as an abject failure. But if you want to feel awestruck, that’s another matter. Proudly grave and portentous, the film has so many grand themes, and such a powerfully doom-laden atmosphere, that it more than justifies the price of a cinema ticket. The alien rituals and languages are so detailed, and the otherworldly design is so elaborate, that at times it really does feel as if you’re watching the product of a distant civilisation. Some viewers will be driven up the wall, and out of the cinema, but others will be spellbound. Everyone will agree that it’s light years away from the average Hollywood blockbuster.

In the 1970s, the visionary Alejandro Jodorowsky planned to make his own Dune film, and one of the people he employed was HR Giger, the Swiss artist who would go on to design Alien. Their project collapsed, but parts of Dune: Part 2 seem just as monumental, lavishly bizarre and downright disturbing as anything that Jodorowsky and Giger can have had in mind.

★★★☆☆

Dune: Part Two is released on 1 March.

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